Friday, September 17, 2010

Screening Log: The Rest of the Summer - Drive-By, Half-Assed, No-I-Didn’t-Like-Inception Edition

I went back to school in May and didn’t have time to see much of anything. But around the middle of June I got into a groove and started catching up with stuff via Netflix Watch Instant and DVRing TCM. I had most of August off, so I even managed to get to the theater to catch some of the big summer movies. But I’m back in school now, and I have no time at all to write this up as a proper screening log. Questions, comments are always welcome.

High Sierra (Walsh) ***** - Great movie. Best Bogart performance.

The Girl on the Train (Techine) ***

The Bridesmaid (Chabrol) *** - RIP

Heist (Mamet) *** - Great, if unbelievable, dialogue.

THX-1138 (Lucas) **

Red Cliff (Woo) *** - This is to Hard Boiled as The Lord of the Rings is to Dead Alive.

A Prophet (Audiard) **

Some Came Running (Minnelli) *****

The Hunted (Friedkin) ***

Candyman (Rose) *** - This one is really good! I’m glad I saved it for a rainy day.

The Crazies (Romero) ****

Journey Into Fear (Foster) * - A mess.

Mother (Bong Joon-ho) **

The Other Guys (McKay) *** - This may be McKay’s best work as a metteur-en-scene, although it lacks the surreal Walmart poetry of Step Brothers and Talladega Nights.

The Expendables (Stallone) ** - The actions scenes are a bit of a mess, but it’s nice to see all these guys hanging out together. Dolph Lundgren is teriffic. Jet Li is criminally underused.

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (Gilliam) * - Not surprisingly a mess. Still, some very nice things in it. It seems, though, like they tried to use every inch of Ledger footage they had, but some of it really needed a second (or third) take.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Gentleman Broncos (Hess) **** - Even better the second time around.

Edge of Darkness (Campbell) *** - This one disappeared, but it’s quite a good genre piece: a few steps down from The Ghost Writer, but above almost any other recent political thriller I can think of. It’s a bit like State of Play in that you get what you expect, but never exactly in the way you expect it.

Stagecoach (Ford) ***** - I could watch this everyday.

Unfaithfully Yours (Sturges) ***** - This is the second time I’d seen it. I watched it the first time because I was writing about Sturges for my undergraduate thesis and I didn’t like it as much as his other movies. Although, in retrospect, that was probably because it wasn’t as useful to my thesis as Morgan’s Creek or The Palm Beach Story. Watching it now, though, with no ulterior motives, I really loved it.

The Eclipse (MacPherson) *** - I like movies that are smartly made and well-acted and get at genuine human/emotional truths but that don’t, per se, really have a point.

The Thief of Bagdad (Korda) **

Dreamscape ***

Gojira (Honda) ****

To Be or Not to Be (Lubitsch) *****

The Men Who Stare at Goats (Heslov) **

DOA **

Matinee (Dante) *****

The Package (Davis) * - Truly a product of its time.

Black Christmas (Clark) **

The House of the Devil *** - Almost a masterpiece. The problem is in the last act. These ambitious genre movies often have a great set up and wonderful development, but then return to the conventional for the ending. Nonetheless, there are moments here that reminded me of Garrell’s Regular Lovers.

The Screwfly Solution (Dante) ***

Armored (Antal) *** - Overdetermined screenplay saved by pitch perfect b-movie direction.

Armored Car Robbery (Fleischer) ***

Wild Grass (Resnais) **** - No - I don’t know what the little girl is supposed to mean.

The Hidden Fortress ***** - Kurosawa’s only (?) pure adventure movie is a strong contender for the title of greatest adventure movie ever made.

Sex is Comedy (Breillat) **Bold Italic
Fay Grim (Hartley) ****

Nikita (Besson) *** - I’m such a big fan of the action movies that Luc Besson has produced, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that until now the only Luc Besson-directed movie I’d seen is The Fifth Element (which I like quite a bit). Watching Nikita for the first time now is a little weird because on the one hand it seems to have been extremely influential and on the other it’s full of its own quirks and idiosyncrasies. The action scenes are quite interesting: Besson uses choppy editing rhythms that emphasize cause and effect rather than spatial continuity. It’s comic book Eiseinstein and reminds me more of Raising Arizona than it does other action movies.

Surveillance (Lynch) - Back when I was writing screenplays with my brother, there were two kinds of projects we worked on. The first kind were screenplays for movies that we knew we would love to see, but were pretty certain would never actually be made. Working on those was a lot of fun. The second kind were screenplays for movies that we weren’t as crazy about seeing, but we suspected might actually have a chance of getting made. Working on those wasn’t much fun. Surveillance seems like the second type of project: like Chambers-Lynch had some ideas she wanted to get at but knew she had to put them in a saleable package. So, this ends up feeling like a slightly weirder version of a typical low-budget thriller-with-a-twist.

The Book of Eli (The Hughes Brothers) ** - I am happy to see the Hughes Brothers reinvent themselves as Zack Snyder-ian action stylists.

2012 (Emmerich) ** - I loved the surreal, vertiginous special effects shots of the earth crumbling and rippling.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop **

The Young Victoria **

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Ford) ***** - Another one of a dozen or so movies that could legitimately be called “Ford’s best”.

The Brood (Cronenberg) **** - Weirder than any paraphrase/plot synopsis would suggest.

Bob le Flambeur (Melville) *****

In the Electric Mist (Tavernier) *

District B13 (Morrel) **** - One of my new favorite action movies.

Henry Fool (Hartley) **** - The Great American Novel as Indie Movie.

Inception (Nolan) - Clever, without being witty, imaginative, or soulful. A less bombastic, more nimble movie might get away with mere cleverness, but here it’s a disappointment.

From Paris with Love (Pierre Morel) *

Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright) **

Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean) ****

Star system ("borrowed" from the Chicago Reader)

No stars = Not recommended
* = Redeeming feature(s)
** = Recommended
*** = Highly recommended
**** = "Masterpiece"
***** = A place in my personal pantheon